Nuffield Scholarships offer a chance of a life time.

Nuffield Australia scholarships applications are now open for 2013. I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship in 2010. It was an incredible year of learning and I made many life long friendships.

Any Australian primary producer should consider the opportunity, check out the Nuffield Australia web site. Nuffield scholarships are also available in New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Canada, France and the Netherlands.

The Nuffield Australia web site has a great list of scholar’s blogs.  While these blogs are fantastic for a bit of armchair traveling they are also a great opportunity to learn from the scholar’s experiences.

The video above is mainly a collection of a few of my experiences during my Nuffield travels with Middle East, Paris & Mongolian contributions from Christine Ferguson, Asparagus from Balls and Future leader from Rowan Paulet.

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Grazing under the stars.

One of the many fringe benefits of living in the country is the night sky we get to enjoy. For several weeks now the evening sky has been dominated by Jupiter setting in the west.  This is tonight’s display for our cows to enjoy.

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Autumn sets in

The weather for the last 6 months here at Hoddle has been fantastic for growing grass with a very mild summer and just enough rain to keep the grass ticking along.  With the deciduous trees losing their leaves and a typical foggy autumn morning, the season is changing.

It is time for our cows to start their annual holiday when they get to have a break from milking for around 7 weeks before they calve. The first of the herd is due to calve in early June.

 

 

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Getting a grip on Dairy farm GHG emmisions

In 2010 we undertook our first analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from our dairy farm. To do this we used the industry developed tool DGAS. DGAS software is intended to give the user an understanding of the greenhouse gases emitted from their enterprise, both in absolute terms and relative to milk solids produced. The gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are multiplied by 1, 21 and 310, respectively, so as to be expressed in tonnes of CO2 equivalents. These are then totalled and compared to the tonnes of milk solids produced by the enterprise. One litre of our milk contains around 8 grams of milk solids. The results are not unlike those from pasture based dairy farms anywhere in southern Australia. According to DGAS, our farm emitted 9T CO2 equivlents per tonne of milk solids produced – the bulk of our emissions (60%) come from methane produced by our animals. At this point in time there is little we can do about this other than ensure the best quality feed is provided to the stock so they have the best chance of converting feed to milk with minimal methane emissions. The graph shows that the key sources of emissions on our farm for the 2008 – 09 year were;

  •  Methane (60%), from rumen fermentation,
  • Nitrous oxide (22%) from fertiliser, dung, urine and indirect sources from leaching and ammonia,
  • Embedded emissions (from pre-farm processes) from bought in grain & other inputs accounted for 11,
  • Energy from fuel and electricity contributed only 7% of total emissions on farm.

Of the currently available technologies [for nitrous oxide abatement], nitrification inhibitors, managing animal diets and fertiliser management show the best potential for reducing emissions in the short-term. However, abatement technologies that increase the efficiency of N within the soil–plant system are likely to increase pasture and/or animal productivity, which in turn, is likely to increase methane emissions (e.g. increased stocking rates). It is therefore important that a whole farm system analysis be conducted for individual technologies, to ensure that total GHG abatement is actually achieved.” (De Klein & Eckard, 2008) Richard Eckard from the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre suggests that current technologies able to assist with methane reduction on Australian dairy farms include feeding oils (which we do at the moment to improve milker comfort in the shed, ie: less dust) and ensuring that all animals on the farm are productive. So it is very important we continue to breed and feed for highly efficient cows which are able to convert grass to milk.

Catch up with where we are at with the Carbon Tax on Radio National Bush Telegraph this morning in the first of a series of interviews on “Carbon challenge case study #4: The dairy industry

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Dairy farmers do have holidays.

Camping, kayaking, swimming, fishing and lots of fun

A common misconception is dairy farmers are tied to their farms and never get away. Like many people running a small businesses it can be difficult to get away from a dairy farm but it is a high priority for us.  Returning home just before Good Friday to take back the reins for the Easter holiday period I think we even managed to luck the best couple of weeks of weather so far this year. This year for the first time in a few years now not a single cow/farm/Nuffield visit for the entire holiday.

Now we are back refreshed and ready to get back to work there are lots of jobs to get done on the farm before the cows begin to calve in early June.

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Montrose Garden Harvest

Autumn is always a productive time in our home garden with lots of produce ripening, jam and sauces to make, fruits to preserve and even the odd sweet treat of toffee apples make with fresh new season apples.

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